Tips for Course Continuity

A rapid transition to conducting class fully in Canvas can be disruptive and disorienting for many students. There are recommended practices that maintain class continuity, calm student anxieties, and attend to student needs, and there are practices faculty should avoid that can create further disruptions, add uncertainties, and ignore student needs.

Communicate with Students

During the transition, instructors should communicate to students immediately about changes in schedules, assignments, procedures, and broader course expectations. We recommend using the Canvas Inbox or Announcements tools to communicate with your students. (If you are not currently using Canvas, enroll in the Quick Start to Online Teaching course to get acquainted with the platform). Here are some principles to keep in mind when communicating with your students:

  • Communicate early and often: Let students know about changes or disruptions as early as possible, even if all the details aren't in place yet. Let them know when they can expect more specific information.
  • Set expectations: Let students know how you plan to communicate with them, and how often. Tell students both how often you expect them to log into Canvas to check their Inbox or email, and how quickly they can expect your response. Remind them to update their Canvas notification preferences.
  • Manage your communications load: You will likely receive some individual requests for information that could be useful to all your students, so consider keeping track of frequently asked questions and sending those replies out to everyone. This way, students know they might get a group reply in a day versus a personal reply within an hour.

Please Do ...

  • Maintain the scheduled time and day that your class meets. This ensures that students who attend your class do not need to adjust their schedules to participate.
  • Contact your students prior to the campus closure date at least twice. Be clear with your instructions on how you will use Canvas, Google Meet, and/or Zoom to manage your class. On the day prior to the official closure, send a reminder email or message to ensure that all students received the instructions.
  • Download all the apps (e.g., Canvas, Google Meet, Zoom, etc.) you plan to use on multiple devices in case one of your devices malfunctions during instruction.
  • Test out your equipment and your hosting location with colleagues and solicit their feedback on your set up. Be open to ideas and be willing to share tips with colleagues who are seeking advice.
  • Reach out individually to students who were attending on-campus classes but are missing virtual classes. This may be a sign they are experiencing accessibility of other challenges.
  • Ask your student how you can help them during the transition. Students may have additional challenges that can amplify during times of stress or uncertainty. Be helpful and direct them to advising, counseling, or any other student support services if needed.

Please Do Not ...

  • Reschedule your virtual classes for times and days that your class does not normally meet, or extend class time beyond scheduled hours.
  • Change the syllabus, grading structure or expectations of the course, unless absolutely necessary.
  • Change the due dates of assignments, test dates, and/or finals schedule, unless absolutely necessary.
  • Make any changes that impact the amount of work and study time required of students and/or TAs.
  • Engage in private consultation with individual students (i.e. messaging or chat functions) that you would not extend to all students who seek your support.
  • Ignore expressed student needs (i.e. advising, counseling services, financial aid, etc.) that fall outside your immediate duties as a teacher.